Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Why do atheists like Dan Barker abandon their faith?

Unbelievable’s latest radio show featured a discussion with former Christian Dan Barker, the founder and co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The MP3 file is here. (60 minutes)

I thought that I would make some general comments about why I think that many people leave the Christian faith, and what you should be careful of in order to avoid following in Dan Barker’s footsteps, specifically.

Basically, there are four major reasons why people leave Christianity.

  1. They want to do something immoral with impunity. This type of person wants to do something immoral that is forbidden by Christianity, like pre-marital sex. They dump Christianity in order to feel better about seeking happiness in this life, apart from God and his moral duties.
  2. They want to pursue happiness in irresponsible ways. This type of person thinks that God’s job is to save them when they act irresponsibly while pursuing happiness. When God disappoints them by not giving them what they want in order to be happy, they leave the faith.
  3. They want to be loved by people, not by God. This type of person thinks that Christianity is a tool that they can use to become popular. When they first try to articulate the gospel in public, they find that people don’t like them as much, and they feel bad about offending people with exclusive truth claims that they cannot back up using logic and evidence. So, they water down Christianity to get along with atheists, liberal Christians and other religions. Finally, they jettison Christianity completely and focus on making everyone feel good about whatever they believe.
  4. They don’t want to learn to defend their faith. This type of person is asked questions by skeptics that they cannot answer. Usually this happens when people go to university after growing up in the shelter of the Church. The questions and peer pressure make them feel stupid. Rather than investigate Christianity to see if it’s true and to prepare to defend it in public, they dump it so they can be thought of as part of the “smart” crowd.

Now listen to the discussion and see if you can identify some of these factors from Barker’s own carefully-prepared words. He is trying very hard to make himself look honest and moderate, because he wants Christians to be sympathetic with his story and his motives for leaving Christianity. But I think that there is enough in his statements to construct a different hypothesis of why he left Christianity.

I’ve grouped the data by risk factor. (These are not his exact views)

Non-rational, emotional approach to Christianity

  • he was raised in a devout Christian family where he probably wouldn’t have faced skeptical questions
  • he converted to Christianity at age 15 as a result of a religious experience, not a serious investigation
  • his idea of God was probably idealized and uninformed, e.g. – a loving God who wants us to be happy
  • he wandered around from church to church preaching, with no fixed address or source of income
  • he earned money by collecting “love offerings” from churches where he performed his music
  • he wrote Christian songs and Christian musicals, but nothing substantive on apologetics and theology
  • he worked in three churches known for being anti-intellectual and fundamentalist
  • there’s no evidence that of any deep study of philosophy, science and history during this time

Desire to gain acceptance from non-Christians

  • he began to notice that some people were uncomfortable with sin and Hell
  • he began to avoid preaching about sin and Hell in order to make these people comfortable
  • he watered-down the gospel to focus on helping people to be happy in this life
  • his manic approach to Christian ministry was challenged by the “real life” needs of his growing family
  • he met liberal pastors while performing his music in their churches
  • he found it difficult to disagree with them because they seemed to be “good” people
  • he watered down his message further in order to appeal to people across the theological spectrum

Ignorance of Christian apologetics

  • he began to think that if there are many different views of religion, then no view can be correct
  • he was not intellectually capable of using logic and evidence to test these competing claims to see which was true
  • he decided to instead re-interpret Christian truth claims as non-rational opinions, so they could all be “valid”
  • he became a theological liberal, abandoning theism for an impersonal “ground of being”
  • he embraced religious pluralism, the view that all religions are non-rational and make no testable truth claims
  • he began to see God as a “metaphor” whose purpose is to make people have a sense of meaning and purpose
  • he jettisoned God completely and focused more on helping people find meaning and morality apart from God
  • seems to think that religion is about having a “great life”, and felt that you can have a “great life” without religion
  • seems to think that religion is about being “good”, and felt that you can be “good” without religion
  • religion makes people feel bad by telling them what to do instead of letting them do anything they want
  • religion makes people feel bad by telling them what is true, instead of letting them believe whatever they want
  • religion makes people feel bad by telling them that God will hold them accountable for their beliefs and actions

So what do I think happened?

I think he abandoned his faith because he wanted people to like him and because he needed to be invited to liberal churches in order to make money to pay for the “real life” needs of his family.

He seems to have thought that Christianity is about having his needs met and being liked by others. I think he wanted to feel good and to make people feel good with his preaching and singing. He seems to have become aware that the exclusive claims of Christianity made other people feel offended, so he cut them out. He hadn’t studied philosophy, science or history so that he would have been able to demonstrate to other people whether what he was saying was true. It’s hard to offend people when you don’t really know whether your claims are true or not, and when you don’t know how to demonstrate whether they are true or not.

I also think money was a factor. It seems to me that it would have hurt his career and reduced his invitations from liberal churches if he had kept up teaching biblical Christianity. In order to appeal to a wider audience, (like many Christian singers do – e.g. – Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, etc.), he would have felt pressured to water down the unpleasant parts of his preaching and singing. Lacking apologetics skill, he instead abandoned his message. He needed to account for his family’s needs and “real life”, and exclusive truth claims and Hell-talk would probably have reduced his ability to do that. It seems to me that he should have scaled back his extreme schedule of preaching and singing, and instead gotten a steady job so that he could afford “real life” and a family without being pressured into altering his message.

Life isn’t a fairy tale. God isn’t there to reward risky behavior. We need to be more shrewd about financial matters so that we have the ability to not care about what people think of us. Look at this blog. I work all day as a senior software engineer with two degrees in computer science so that I can refuse donations. I save most of what I make in case a tragedy strikes. Since I am financially secure, I can say what I think, and disregard anyone who wants me to change my message because they are offended. Becoming a Christian isn’t a license to behave irrationally and immaturely with money. For some people, (like William Lane Craig), stepping out in faith works. But if it doesn’t work, it’s better to retreat and re-trench, rather than to compromise your message for money.

Barker didn’t seem to make any effort to deal intellectually with typical challenges like the existence of Hell and religious pluralism. He just wanted to be liked by people instead of being liked by God. He seemed to have thought that being a Christian would make him happy and that other people would all respond to him and like him without having to do any work to explain why Christianity is true. But that’s not Biblical. When the singing and preaching is over, you still have to know how to give an answer to non-Christians. But Barker couldn’t give an answer – not one that allowed him to retain his beliefs. He had not prepared a defense.

What does Dan Barker think about Christianity today?

Many atheists today are interested in eradicating public expressions of Christian beliefs in the public square, because they hate Christianity and believe that Christians should not be allowed to make them feel bad by exercising their rights of free speech. Is Dan Barker one of these militant atheists?

Well, take a look at this video, in which he objects to a nativity scene and demands that an atheistic denunciation of theism be posted alongside it. In the video, Barker explains that the nativity scene is hate speech, and that the baby Jesus is a dictator. He seems to be totally oblivious to the the idea that if Christianity is true, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s mean and exclusive. And this seems to me to have been his problem all along, from the day of his “conversion”.

So the real question is this: is it true? Barker seems to be much more interested in asking “is it nice?” and “will it make me happy?”.

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30 Responses

  1. Odd: he was not willing to receive a little heat for his Christian beliefs, but he is willing to receive confrontation of his atheistic beliefs.

    Also, he didn’t appreciate being directly challenged by atheists and others while he proclaimed himself a Christian, but now his life’s mission is to join them and eradicate Christianity. The man doth protest too much, methinks, and methinks it is very telling.

  2. Nergal says:

    I left the Christian faith myself because I was a firm believer when I was very young,but I began to experience daily severe physical abuse in my home as a child. I begged God to save me,to look upon my service to him and my innocence as a child,and make the abuse stop.

    Nothing happened.

    So I started pleading with God in my nightly prayers to just let me die and be done with it. I would have been satisfied with any relatively quick and painless death that would have allowed me to escape the hell I lived in. Fairly common thoughts for a POW in a Korean prison camp,I’ll admit,but heavy stuff for a 12 year old.

    Nothing happened.

    I talked with other Christians the whole time. I got a bunch of meaningless crap about how God works in mysterious ways,but no answers to my problems.

    I used to be pretty vitriolic against you guys,but now I feel sorry for you with the culture the way it is and the way everybody wants to restrict you from practicing your religion freely. I now have a religious ethos that is much more satisfying and explanatory to me than Christianity ever was.I have truly found peace with Christians and Christianity,even though I’ll probably never go back to the church myself or ask forgiveness from God for believing the way I do, even if it means burning in hell for eternity.

    I hope your God blesses you. I wish you peace and happiness,and all the success you deserve in your current battle with the culture and I go toe-to-toe with those who wish to restrict your religious rights as often as you do. I don’t let people bash on you guys around me without speaking up for your right to hold your beliefs,even if they make no sense to me or anyone else.

    If,understanding my motivations, you can leave me to my choices in peace then I feel confident I can leave you to yours as I believe I have a grasp on your motivations as well after all my years of soul-searching and researching.

    • Nergal,

      Your life experiences make me ache inside. I would never minimize the pain you’ve been through, ever. I thank you for your grace, and I deeply appreciate your defending our rights to theistic beliefs.

    • Howler Monkey says:

      your life story sounds similar to mine. You also had the same experiences i had. I dropper Christianity for a long time. But found Jesus at the age of 24. I feel the same way why cant we all just get along. There will always be bad people on both sides. And i seriously doubt that being an atheist leads to a better way of life, just as i know that being a Christian does not make me less human.

  3. Excellent analysis and summary. The problem was, is and ever shall be the almighty Self.

  4. cheshire says:

    I always get a little uncomfortable trying to ascertain people’s inner motives for believing what they do. I think some of your speculations may be valid, I’m just not sure it’s something we can really know for sure.

    The problem with Barker’s attempts to present himself as an “intellectually honest skeptic of the Christian faith” is his behavior since becoming an atheist. He’s rude, obnoxious, offensive, and is about as good an example as I can find of a fundamentalist atheist. That’s simply not how people behave when they’re operating on purely rational grounds, and he never seems to see the irony in proclaiming himself a bastion of rationality and free thought on the one hand, yet turning around and carrying himself with such irrationality on the other.

    I would assume that Barker believes that I as a Christian am as ridiculous as I would find, say, Mormonism. But I don’t feel the need to start anti-Mormon websites or dedicate my entire life to ridiculing Mormons the way Barker has done with Christianity. Why? Because I’m secure in my beliefs and my assertions, and behaving that way is what you do when you’re not secure.

    Barker is an embarrassment to atheism, and I would say that a Christian who behaves the way he does is just as much an embarrassment to Christianity. But more than that, his attitude is such a clear betrayal of his claims. What’s driving him? I can’t say for sure, although I think you hit on some good possibilities. But what I can say is that he seems very disingenuous and unsettled about it. And that makes it hard to take him seriously.

  5. Nathan Reese says:

    I really think you’re making some false assumptions here. As a former Christian, I can honestly say that I did not lose my faith for any of the reasons mentioned above, nor did any other atheist that I know. On the contrary, all of my friends and family were Christian, and I had every reason to want to stay a Christian. I looked at arguments from both sides, and found that I just no longer believed anymore. It wasn’t a conscious decision to stop believing, but I just had to accept that the evidence did not support my Christian beliefs.

    • Nathan,

      Not to undermine you entirely, in Wintery’s defense, he did mention what he’s witnessed about Barker in particular and many but not all atheists in general. There are, certainly, exceptions with all religious/non-religious experiences. Bart Ehrman, for example, began his quest away from theism because of the problem of evil.

      I will state, however, that James S. Spiegel, in his book The Making of an Atheist, makes a viable case for ethics and immorality being the foundation of atheism and convinced atheists like Thomas Nagel et al., who admitted much the same.

      • Nathan Reese says:

        That’s just not correct. I can’t speak for every atheist, but it’s highly unlikely that many people lose their religion because they wanted to be immoral. I have known several atheists that lost their faith because they did not believe the God of the Old Testament was a good standard of morals. An overwhelming majority of the National Academy of Science is made up of atheists. Is it just a coincidence that they all wanted to be immoral?

        When it comes down to it, I don’t think people really make a decision to believe in Christianity, Islam, or no God at all. You can study, pray, and go to church every week, but you can’t force yourself to believe in something any more than you can force yourself to like the taste of cilantro if it just doesn’t taste good to you.

        • Paul Goodfellow says:

          Nathan,

          You are going off topic a little because the post is about people who leave the Christian faith and not what percentage believe or not. If the “overwhelming majority” of the NAS are atheists who left the Christian faith then it would be relevant, but I suspect that we do not have that data.

          As to you claim itself about the “overwhelming majority” is it based upon the survey conducted in 1996 and published in Nature?

          http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html

          Well there is a more recent survey in 2009 of members of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science and it found 51% “believe in God or a higher power”.

          http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/24/opinion/la-oe-masci24-2009nov24

          I guess there must have been a major revival amongst scientists. Or something is wrong with the statistics.

        • That’s very true. You can’t force yourself to believe something. You believe or not based on what evidence you have that something is true.

          Of course, there is lots of evidence of the truth of Christianity. It’s just that a lot of people (including, sadly enough, those who claim to be Christians) who don’t ever investigate the evidence. Often, they believe in Christianity because they were taught it as children and they accepted what their parents and friends told them. Then, when given evidence that seems to suggest that Christianity is false, they are easily swayed to believe that Christianity is false without ever having looked at the actual evidence that Christianity is true.

          In many cases, such ex-Christians don’t even know that such evidence exists for Christianity, nor do they look for it, because they’ve already been in the Christian camp and they assume if there was evidence they would have seen it by now. However, that is often a misguided assumption as very few churches today even mention the evidence for Christianity. They speak only of blind faith and emotional experience, as if that was the foundation of the Christian faith when nothing could be further from the truth.

          All I can say is that if you really have seen no evidence for Christianity, if you really can’t bring yourself to believe it because you see no evidence, then you haven’t looked in the right place (especially if you were relying on a church or family to hand it to you).

          • Nathan Reese says:

            I would say that’s a little condescending to assume just because I don’t think the evidence supports Christianity, that I haven’t looked in the right place. I could just as easily make that assertion about Christians. Please tell me where to find this evidence. I’m willing to be that your evidence is going to be the same evidence that I heard used a thousand other times. If so, then I don’t find it convincing.

          • OK Nathan, list 5 arguments for theism, the name of the scholar who advances them, and the book or debate where you saw them.

          • Nathan Reese says:

            I’m replying to WK’s comment below, but it wouldn’t let me reply directly.

            “OK Nathan, list 5 arguments for theism, the name of the scholar who advances them, and the book or debate where you saw them.”

            No, that would prove absolutely nothing. Even if I had never listened to any Christian arguments, I could easily do a Google search and claim I’ve heard of these guys.

            I do a bi-weekly podcast called Faith and Skepticism with a Christian friend of mine, and we usually have a 2nd Christian guest on as well. I not only get to hear their views, but I also spend a lot of time researching different arguments so I’m familiar with them beforehand.

          • Howler Monkey says:

            Well if your arguing about historical Evidence, From what I’ve seen at least 90% of the bible has been proven to be historically accurate, currently. Even if it can be denied as the word of God by non believers. I’t can’t be denied for its historical evidence.

    • Howler Monkey says:

      The same thing happened to me in reverse. Grew up in and atheist family tried the Believing in Jesus as a kid, did not work. When i was much older i had an experience that really opened my eyes to Jesus and now i’m a christian. My family are still not believers from what i know. Although my dad might have changed his views due to MS, but not by my doing or preaching.

  6. JMG says:

    Nathan, you wrote:

    “When it comes down to it, I don’t think people really make a decision to believe in Christianity, Islam, or no God at all.”

    I would have to agree with you here to a point. It is true that belief is not a decision one makes. Belief is simply the passive product of convincing evidence. However, one can indeed choose to reject or ignore valid evidence simply because one does not like the implications of where that evidence might lead. That IS a choice that people DO make.

    You continued:

    “You can study, pray, and go to church every week, but you can’t force yourself to believe in something any more than you can force yourself to like the taste of cilantro if it just doesn’t taste good to you.”

    Who told you that study (of what?), prayer, and going to church will cause you to believe something? Is that what you were told to do when you began to question Christianity? If that is the case, then it’s no wonder you ended up where you are today. It would be a sad example of the ineptitude of Christians and the church at large in offering the credible historical and philosophical arguments for the rational validity of what they believe. Too many Christians don’t know why they believe what they believe and manage what they call “belief” simply on sheer force of will. It makes for a shoddy, shallow Christianity that lacks any ability to justify itself in the public square. Barker is a perfect example of a casualty of this state of affairs in the visible church. He is a willing casualty, perhaps, but a casualty, nevertheless, who found ready assistance for his skepticism from the intellectual impotence that pervades too much of Christianity today. WK’s site here operates precisely for the purpose of combating this problem. No one here is telling anyone else to just “force yourself to believe” merely because it’s the right thing to do. Surely that should be evident to you. Very cogent arguments and substantial evidence are routinely presented here that beg for either refutation or affirmation on the part of the readers.

    You wrote in a previous comment regarding your own life experience:

    “I looked at arguments from both sides, and found that I just no longer believed anymore.”

    And in your own self-profile, you wrote:

    “After struggling with these inconsistencies (between the Bible and science) for a little while, he slowly crept toward deism before ultimately realizing that there was no evidence for any type of god, deistic or theistic.”

    To say that “there is no evidence for any type of God” is astounding. Is there really NO evidence? Have you really given BOTH sides of the issue a fair hearing? Or have you simply chosen to reject the evidence that you do not like, as someone would choose to reject something, shall we say … cilantro, because they find it not in accord with their taste?

    It will not suffice to fall back on what some well-meaning, but uninformed people told you in the past that you should just believe because you should believe. The mere fact that you are here on this site means that it should now be obvious that their response was neither the only one available nor the best one as an answer to your questioning.

  7. Nathan Reese says:

    “To say that “there is no evidence for any type of God” is astounding. Is there really NO evidence? Have you really given BOTH sides of the issue a fair hearing?”

    No, I haven’t given both sides a fair hearing. I have given much more time to Christianity, and still find it very unconvincing.

    “It will not suffice to fall back on what some well-meaning, but uninformed people told you in the past that you should just believe because you should believe. The mere fact that you are here on this site means that it should now be obvious that their response was neither the only one available nor the best one as an answer to your questioning.”

    I’m on this site because I’m interested to hear others’ opinions. I co-host a podcast with a Christian, and spend a lot of time reading and listening to what Christians have to say. The reasons given for deconversion in this blog seem to suggest that WK has spent very little time, if any, talking to atheists to find out why they converted from Christianity. If your goal is to “save” atheists, I think you would have a much better chance if you at least understood where they were coming from.

    • JMG says:

      Nathan,

      You said:

      “… I think you would have a much better chance if you at least understood where they were coming from.”

      From what you said here, you as a skeptic (atheist?) are coming from the standpoint that “there is NO evidence for any type of God…”

      As I said, absolutely astounding.

      Sorry, you can’t simply dismiss the volume and quality of information available in favor of God’s existence with a mere waive of the hand, and still retain any semblance of legitimacy in your sincerity. Evidence is presented left and right. If you have some information that shows it to be false, then please do put it forward. I have not found it yet, but I’d be very reluctant to continue on in what I believe to be true if I am in error about it. Do tell.

      Until you give valid reasons why the evidence / arguments (such as you will find right here on this site) are flawed and unconvincing, then you need to realize that from the other side of the fence, it seems you are simply closing your eyes to whatever is presented and saying “I don’t see anything”. You might be more credible to Christians if you understood where we are coming from. If you can’t present any concrete objections to the evidence / arguments, then what may I ask is the basis of your rejection of the evidence? Do you have any online articles that would inform of the basis of your skepticisim?

      JMG

    • cheshire says:

      I think you make some fair points Nathan. My own personal journey was growing up Christian, then hitting a point in my life where I was closer to agnosticism and could have gone any direction, then ultimately finding myself overwhelmingly convinced by the evidence for Christianity and going back that direction. So I kind of went the opposite direction.

      I think everyone who is going to approach this discussion rationally has to admit 2 things though:

      1.) It’s not as if one side has all the evidence and the other doesn’t. Even though I assert that Christianity is the more rational position, I can understand why some people look at certain pieces of evidence and think it supports the idea that atheism is the more rational position. I get very wary of anyone who thinks EVERYTHING points one direction or the other, as that tells me they haven’t truly evaluated the evidence.

      2.) The debate is not purely about facts and evidence. It would be nice if it were, but there is a great deal of emotion involved on both sides of the issue. And emotion isn’t an invalid thing, nor should it be dismissed…. it’s to be expected since we are emotional beings. I’ve had conversations with people who ultimately admitted they were atheists because they just wanted it to be true, not because the evidence led them there. There are plenty of Christians for whom the same thing is true.

      At any rate, I don’t point these things out as a response or a disagreement since I don’t see anyone disagreeing with them… just the things that popped in my head as I read through this thread. I admire your willingness to come on a blog to honestly learn about other people’s opinions. Both sides could use more of that.

  8. Scott says:

    FWIW, Catholic philosopher Edward Feser posted on his blog today that he’ll be on “Catholic Answers Live” billed as “Open Forum for Atheists.” I’ve never listed to these, so I don’t know what they’re like. Just thought I’d mention it in case those engaging in the present discussion would want to listen in while the topic’s hot.

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/03/philosophy-on-radio.html

  9. Nathan Reese says:

    You are just interpreting the evidence to support your worldview. I don’t see it that way. I’m not going to take the time to make objections to every argument for God that’s been put forward, but I would be happy to address the evidence that you think is the best evidence for God’s existence.

    The only evidence that I won’t address is personal experience because your personal experience can’t be used as evidence for others. I would have no way to confirm or deny that experience.

    • JMG says:

      Nathan,

      You said:

      “You are just interpreting the evidence to support your worldview.”

      No, I’m looking for the most reasonable explanation of the evidence.

      ” I don’t see it that way.”

      Understood. The question is what reasons do you have for seeing it differently.

      “I’m not going to take the time to make objections to every argument for God that’s been put forward …”

      I don’t think anyone expects you to do that. However, it might be nice to see at least a few from you. Not wanting to make objections to every argument is a poor excuse for not wanting to make any.

      “…but I would be happy to address the evidence that you think is the best evidence for God’s existence.”

      A fair request. I suggest the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as being the best. While a number of articles could be cited from WK’s site right here, I’ll go with just these two:

      http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/do-naturalistic-theories-account-for-the-minimal-facts-about-jesus-resurrection-2/

      http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/william-lane-craigs-historical-case-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus/

      Keeping with the topic of this thread as touching on those who once embraced Christianity in one way or another, but later abandoned it because they claim to have rationally examined its truth claims and to have found them wanting, please address how you are able to alternatively explain the very curious historical events (for instance):

      – conversion of skeptics Paul & James
      – no record of an available lifeless corpse
      – claims of an empty tomb to an audience that was in close proximity to the tomb and could easily verify the claims
      – claims of physical appearance by a crucified person to various persons who made the claims even though they were Jews who themselves were expecting according to their sacred writings a resurrection of all people at the end of history, but not of one single individual in advance
      – sudden and mass conversion of polytheistic pagans to an exclusivistic form of monotheism
      – sudden and mass conversion of stubbornly monotheistic Jews to a binitarian, and later trinitarian, form of monotheism

      that surround the birth of Christianity itself, apart from the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

      Seriously, if you’ve got a better explanation, I doubt that I’m the only one here that would like to hear it.

      JMG

  10. Nathan says:

    I will first point out that I view claims like these through the Sagan philosophy of “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. So, when the claim involves someone being dead for 3 days, and then coming back to life, or Muhammad riding to heaven on a white horse, I am going to require some pretty convincing evidence to accept those claims. If there are other possible explanations that do not violate the laws of physics, I will lean toward those explanations.

    There is no need for me to try and refute every point that you lay out because they all rely on the historical authenticity of the Bible, which I do not believe can be confirmed. The fact that most of the Gospel stories and life of Christ have very little evidence of occurring outside of the Bible itself, that should be looked at as a red flag. There are no historical documents that mention Jesus being resurrected. For such a significant historical event, you would expect it to be a pretty big deal.

    There are plenty of alternative explanations for the supposed resurrection of Christ. I have no way to know if any of them are true, but they are all more reasonable than believing someone died, and arose 3 days later. Here is a link with some of the possible explanations.
    http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=The_resurrection

    To be honest, the resurrection is not a good starting point to prove God’s existence to an atheist. If you can convince someone there is a God, then you could use the resurrection to then convince them that the God of the Bible is the one true God, but there are a lot of other assumptions I would need to accept about God before then making the leap to Christianity.

    • Would you like me to recommend a debate for you on the resurrection where you can hear both sides?

      Here’s one that fits what you wrote in your comment about Hume’s “extraordinary evidence” dictum:

      And here’s another one you might like as well:

      Please watch those, you will get both sides, and you will learn a ton about how historians debate the resurrection and what is and is not regarded as historical.

      Also, you should know that Christians usually argue for the resurrection by arguing for God first. If you would like to find out what those arguments are, then I recommend watching this debate between William Lane Craig and Peter Millican. Millican presents the best response to date against Dr. Craig’s arguments.

      Here you go:

      That will show you how Christians argue for the existence of God in academic settings. These debates are usually made into books as well.

      Here is one from Oxford University Press:
      http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Philosophy/Religion/?view=usa&ci=9780195166002

      Have you read it, or something like it? I think it’s important for me to put these resources in front of you so that you can see what a real debate on these issues looks like, rather than linking to a wiki. Although that wiki article was good, and had good sources. Just making a list of alternatives, though, is not the same as proving that one is true.

    • JMG says:

      Nathan,

      You said:

      “I will first point out that I view claims like these through the Sagan philosophy of “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. So, when the claim involves someone being dead for 3 days, and then coming back to life, or Muhammad riding to heaven on a white horse, I am going to require some pretty convincing evidence to accept those claims. If there are other possible explanations that do not violate the laws of physics, I will lean toward those explanations.”

      But Nathan, that’s not what I asked you to explain. I didn’t say explain how a person could be dead and then alive again after three days, now did I?

      I asked you to explain (APART from the physical resurrection of a dead man) very unusual historical phenomena that DID occur. I listed them.

      Evasiveness, though convenient, will not lend any credibility to your position.

      You went on:

      “There is no need for me to try and refute every point that you lay out because they all rely on the historical authenticity of the Bible, which I do not believe can be confirmed. The fact that most of the Gospel stories and life of Christ have very little evidence of occurring outside of the Bible itself, that should be looked at as a red flag. There are no historical documents that mention Jesus being resurrected. For such a significant historical event, you would expect it to be a pretty big deal.”

      Not only don’t all of the issue that I lay out not depend on the historical reliability of the Bible (aside from the fact that in verifiable historical details – many quite mundane – the Bible has been shown to be exceptionally reliable), in fact, NONE of them depend on the Bible’s historical reliability. The most that you can say is that a few of them depend upon the antiquity of the New Testament.

      What I’ve asked you about is NOT the Gospel stories and their accounts of the life of Christ at all. You seem to want to argue against something that I have not proposed. Why is that? Perhaps you are relying too much on “canned” responses to something other people have asked?

      Look again at what I asked you about:

      – conversion of skeptics Paul & James
      – no record of an available lifeless corpse
      – claims of an empty tomb to an audience that was in close proximity to the tomb and could easily verify the claims
      – claims of physical appearance by a crucified person to various persons who made the claims even though they were Jews who themselves were expecting according to their sacred writings a resurrection of all people at the end of history, but not of one single individual in advance
      – sudden and mass conversion of polytheistic pagans to an exclusivistic form of monotheism
      – sudden and mass conversion of stubbornly monotheistic Jews to a binitarian, and later trinitarian, form of monotheism

      Exactly which one of these items is an “extraordinary claim”?

      Are hostile people changing their minds about something, empty tombs (or even CLAIMS of empty tombs), absence of lifeless corpses, CLAIMS of appearances of a resurrected man by those who according to their world view would not have expected it, sudden mass conversions of polytheists to exclusivistic monotheism, sudden mass conversions of monotheists to a unique trinitarian form of monotheism, really that extraordinary? Seriously?

      Very unusual, yes. Extraordinary in the sense of supernatural, no.

      Virtually everything I have laid out is historically verifiable either from credible extra-Biblical sources or from the mere antiquity of the New Testament itself. Surely as someone who has carefully considered all the angles, you are aware of this.

      If you wish to deny that these things actually took place, please simply do so. If not, then please provide an explanation for them. That was, and still is, my request to you.

      JMG

      • Howler Monkey says:

        I always rely on the historical evidence of the bible to reinforce my belief. There is just to much evidence of these occurrences happening. After all that was the whole point of the bible i do believe. Documenting the lives of those who believed up the the Lord and his disciples. Also documenting the lives of people believers and non believers during this time. The stunning thing to me is that it rings so true in today’s world. Humanity has not changed at all. Sure you can bring up all the negatives( most of which happened due to mans doing not God). But to me there are more positives that arose from these situations.

  11. Chuck says:

    I can’t find how much $$$ Dan Barker has made since he deconverted… But I’m sure it’s waaaaaay more cha-Ching than when he was getting love offerings from churches…

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